Bridging Differences in Open Data: Coming up with standards at Open North

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Open North is a member of GeoThink and this post originally appeared on the GeoThink blog.

In case you missed either report, over the last year Open North has quietly put out an inventory of open data globally and, in a separate report, recommended baseline international standards for open data catalogs. The first report is entitled Gaps and opportunities for standardization in OGP members’ open data catalogs while the second is entitled Identifying recommended standards and best practicesfor open data.

Their work was completed as part of the Open Government Partnership (OGP) Working Group, a group that aims to support governments seeking transparency through open data. Both reports aim to help the 69 countries in the partnership to improve their ability to share open data by standardizing how it’s made available.

The first report, which inventories open data in OGP’s member countries, notes that most members’ open data initiatives consist largely of open data catalogues. To assess each of these different catalogues, the authors wrote automated scripts to collect, normalize, and analyze them. This process allowed them to set a baseline across countries and identify gaps and opportuni­ties for standardization.

“The analysis simply states the choices that OGP members have made with respect each area for standardization; it makes no judgment as to whether these choices are best practices,” they write in laying out the objectives for the report.

In the second report, the authors address a specific research question: “What baseline standards and best practices for open data should OGP members adopt?” But first they diagnose the problem open data faces globally without any standards.

“The lack of standardization across jurisdictions is one major barrier; it makes discovering, accessing, using, and integrating data cumbersome and expensive, above the expected return,” they write. “A lack of knowledge about existing standards and a lack of guidance for their adoption and implementation contribute to this situation.”

The majority of the report then seeks to address these problems by outlining baseline standards and best practices for open data catalogs, while taking into account the differences between jurisdictions that make the global adoption and implementation of standards challenging. In particular, the report concludes with 33 recommendations that member countries should undertake including that governments should provide their agencies a list of acceptable data formats or that they should avoid file compression without good support for it.

To find more of our previous coverage about Open North’s work on open data, check out our previous Geothink.ca story here.

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